Across the Transom: February 2023

Modernist Playlist, Solidarity & Late Payments, Networks

Gahlord Dewald :: 02/28/23 :: Mānoa, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i


But as soon as he loops two bars and pitches that down by 14 semitones, the melody of "Shook Ones PT II" by Mobb Deep begins to take shape. Questlove comes rushing to the DJ booth to see it with his own eyes: right then and there, a sample mystery that had been around since 1995 was unriddled live on the spot. The response by Questlove is priceless.

"Artificial Digging: How Google's AI Now Reveals What Producers Sampled," Tracklib


Why was it overlooked for so long? You guessed it, it's not symmetrical about the octave, and so was excluded a priori from everybody's search.

Wendy Carlos discussing alternate tunings in "Three Asymmetric Divisions of the Octave"


this sort of abandon also helps focus on “the point” in this case which was to solve a musical problem (or put positively, to hugely expand musical possibilities). i needed more hands, i made very specialized virtual hands. i did not make a virtual hand training facility or virtual hand factory or virtual hand playground. what i’m getting at is that i didn’t set out to write an app.

Brian Crabtree in a post about general purpose computing.


The goal was not to put “programming” into a module– it was to solve a very specific musical need– for detailed and powerful event creation.

Brian Crabtree, interviewed in Horizontal Pitch.


Yes, when you really choose with heart the people with whom you want to play and with whom you share the same musical sensibility and spontaneity, it happens that there are suspended moments

Christine Ott, interviewed alongside Mathieu Gabry by Adriana Ciccone in Echoes and Dust


Picasso kept everything he could as a protective cloak around him: every scrap of paper, every object, even the dust that fell on his paintings and on the studio floor.

"Maya Widmaier-Picasso helped to revive her father’s creativity," The Economist, obituary

A recent question someone had was whether the Teenage Engineering TX-6 was a suitable interface for a small studio setup. Here are some thoughts:

Re: TX-6 as a studio interface

To be fair the above issues are fairly small tradeoffs that are mostly handled with some nice mic preamps with built in DIs. The TX-6 makes for a very handy interface in a small studio.


we can gather a valuable technique for procedural generation: switching or collaging among many individual algorithms, each of which has considerable care put into it.

Nathan Ho in "'Switching' in Procedural Generation"


This used to sound “cool” to me. It seemed like the logical path in human-computer interaction. But I’m not so sure anymore.

Mark Simonson in "1979." Mark Simonson Studio


As someone said to me when talking about books by people who are massively successful “Ask any Russian Roulette player and they will tell you they’ve never lost”

Wisdom from a forum


Articles that purport to provide 10 rules for success/failure in a particular endeavor—because no set of rules fits everyone, real life isn’t that simple, and in any case if you shoe-horned your advice into a “magic” number like 10 then you’ve probably either left something important out or padded the list;

From the list of things which Clarkesworld is unlikely to publish.


It’s clear that business as usual won’t be sustainable and I worry that this path will lead to an increased number of barriers for new and international authors.

Neil Clarke in "A Concerning Trend," blogpost


On my local, someone posted about losing motivation to share or teach anything related to technology/art anymore. Someone posted this fantastic response in French (I ran it through Google Translate and did some light editing):

Hey, I think I understand very well because, if I understood correctly, I share this fatigue. The present times do not lend themselves to hope or denial, however necessary to enthusiastically transmit "non-essential" or even toxic know-how. That said, I believe that 2 things can help overcome these difficulties.

First, remember that creation will always remain vital in that it allows us to get out of simple survival. Keeping this in mind and sharing it allows us to go beyond the purely utilitarian or productivist aim that the institution increasingly expects of us. It is up to the students to do what suits them. In addition, our tools are the least toxic of the rest of what is taught in this environment.

Then, our know-how is not in vain in that it conceals a thought that is even more precious than the expected skills alone. I experienced this through a "technical and practical design workshop course oriented on the ground and public authorities." I was expected to teach tools and methods for institutional purposes, at a time in my life when only activism and radical solidarity made sense to me.

Shortly before, your former student gave me the Cyborg Manifesto, which gave me the euphoria of synthesize with precision the references that make up a transversal and revolutionary thought particularly relevant in our time. I therefore took advantage of this workshop to put everything together in a social and sensitive approach in order to transmit above all a hope in collective agency, in coherence with our environment. So that the tools and practices taught contribute above all to an ontological and political awakening.

I don't know if this really answers your concern, but if I understood it correctly, I hope it can help you as much as me, to keep these kinds of ideas in mind. So as not to give in to a nihilism that would make us reject or, on the contrary, give in to everything that pollutes existence. Yes, we are addicted and we are addicting the world with our extractivist technologies, and in that sense we are undesirable. But even when, as an individual or a species, we die, the fundamental questions will persist with all that will remain of our existence here then: what are we and what can we, do we want to do in this world, with what makes us whether we like it or not?


Linguistic structure without knowledge. Media without content.


On DIY electronic instrument manufacture

DIY only ever makes sense if the person doing it enjoys the process enough to not include a value for their own time in the cost. That’s far and away the heaviest cost in making something, way more than parts if you calculate a livable wage for the time spent.


Much like unpaid work, late payments practices widen the class divide in the cultural industry, by making a distinction between who can afford a “financial buffer” and who does not. This shapes who can afford to participate in a cultural industry which relies more and more on freelance work.

"Late Payments as a Systemic Issue in the Cultural Industry," Technomaterialism


For the album I limited myself to one voice at a time, one note at a time. The assemblage into a final instrumental ensemble required multi-track tape. This is nothing at all unique to electronic music. You like that coloring, you want to use it for a lower voice at some later point in the piece. You lay that down and you start assembling. Much like you might build a wall out of bricks, but not be limited by gravity to put the bottom bricks on first–you can assemble them at any place that you feel that you are ready for them.

You can predict that they will be right now and, when the final other layers are placed in, they will have just enough space left for them. You will neither have pre-calculated in an over direction or an under direction.

So that you know that the voice which might sound too bright now in the final balance will blend exactly as it should. And if you make it sound correct now–or as to say the brightness sound right–in the final balance that voice will sound lost.

Wendy Carlos discussing the recording process of Switched on Bach in an interview as part of a CBC Broadcast in Nov 1968.


A recording like this one functions as a time capsule, a harbinger... a memory of a time when letting music wash over you was just one of many options.

Anthony Coleman in "Laraaji's Segue to Infinity by Anthony Coleman," Bomb


And as media scholar Joanna Zylinska has argued, water infrastructures are particularly potent means of thinking through politics. “At a time when lofty yet disembodied notions of democracy and freedom are running thin,” she writes, “we need to work on developing more grounded and more fluid modes of political thinking and action, modes that take our relations with the environment seriously.

Shannon Mattern in "Fountain Society," Places


I zoom out, I shift things in my schedule, and I slow down and come back to who I am; a human, who also happens to be an artist.

Michelle Hromin in "I don't want the badge," I Care if You Listen


Indeed, the participation of the likes of Morphosis and Adjaye Associates makes a lot more sense if one dispels the notion of the architect as an artist or artisan, devoted to crafting lovely little things at a critical remove from society. Thom Mayne, David Adjaye, and all the others are not individual great men and women of the arts. They are at their core bosses: capitalists running firms employing the thousands of often well-meaning people lured into the field by architecture schools and the promise that they, too, could one day have their name on a building, only to instead be subjugated to ten hour days of drudgery and the other myriad indignities of wage labor. And so it goes.

Kate Wagner's "Line in the Sand," The Baffler


The seductive vision isn't real AI (whatever that is) but technologies that are good enough to replace human workers or, more importantly, to precaritise them and undermine them.

Dan McQuillan's "ChatGPT Is a Bullshit Generator Waging Class War," Motherboard/Vice


On power conditioning & grounding

I use, pretty much exclusively, Furman PST-8s for everything. I bet you could bolt one into a rack though if you want it racked.

I’ve had all kinds of power conditions over the years–exceptionally shady industrial zone power with a machine shop in the space next door, freaky 1930s wiring in old downtown buildings, super clean institutional power, run of the mill residential power, grid-connected solar, etc. Furman PST-8s are my favorite and I stopped messing around with other products after I added these in.

Almost always the issue isn't power conditioning, it's bad grounding. And to resolve grounding issues the best way is the long and arduous way described in this manual: PDF | HTML


“It's a great way to connect everyone together, you get all walks of life, we get people that are like boat captains that come out,” he said. “Everyone out here doing this is having fun.”

Evan Woodard quoted in Scott Maurine's "There's a new hobby in Baltimore, fishing hunks of metal out of the Chesapeake Bay with magnets," WYPR


A big thing that I didn’t mention yet is that artists who come to you, who are part of a scene, who are part of a movement of artists, a community of artists that is interconnected; it’s easier as a publicist or an agent to pitch an artist if you can pitch them in relation to other artists people already know. An artist who is a frequent collaborator with others makes for a greater ability to connect the dots between players and scenes.

Matt Merewitz interviewed by Matt Fripp in "Interview with Publicist Matt Merewitz," Jazzfuel


Alex Pelly breaks down a video synthesis patch using a variety of techniques including audio reactivity, an analog shift register, and a bunch of other interesting things.


I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a "two sided market," where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.

Cory Doctorow in "Tiktok's enshittification," Pluralistic


A deep collection of timelines.


For the past six years I have been collecting examples of “other networks” or networks that preceded the internet or that exist outside of the internet. I’ve noticed that the closer any given “other” network is to the present moment, the more it stands as a kind of blasphemous gesture to “the” internet.

Lorie Emerson's "Blasphemy, Not Apostasy," Weblog


I’ve stopped formal planning and am about to dump structured lecturers in favour of doing things that bring joy. I am going to instruct all of my lecturers to now only teach what gives them happiness. What is sparking their mind right now? What are they finding hope within? I want them teaching that. For myself, I’m turning to dialogue with my peers in the room and playing embodied games to illustrate concepts physically. Traditional approaches do not allow for transgression in this situation. New methods are required.

Phoenix Perry in "On Teaching," Teaching Computational Creative Practice as Liberation